People are far from perfect, such is proven through the genre of literature known as satire. Satire makes a person think about the situation or societal view of a topic while they also laugh at the ridiculousness of it all. A satirist is someone that arises to expose an ill of society, using wit, sarcasm, or light humor to cause the audience to pay more attention because humans seem to generally be more attracted to things that make them feel at least a little better, like comedy shows. Wherever there are humans, there will always be something wrong with the area specified. Satire focuses on getting people to think more, and bring people over to see the satirist’s point of view on a subject. Occasionally this works, and the undecided ones begin thinking about what is wrong with what they’re doing, but other times, the satire is ineffective, and people just laugh as the point goes right over their heads. The real question is whether or not satire is effective or not in general. Satire is a great way to get people to realize what is wrong and begin thinking of ways to change an ill of society for the better.
A Modest Proposal by Jonathan Swift is thought of by many as one of the first great works of satire. In the beginning paragraphs of A Modest Proposal, Swift highlights what living in Dublin, Ireland in the 1720’s is like, and explains how overpopulation and famine are very rampant things in the area at the time. The main audience for Swift’s work consisted of higher ups in Ireland, and some upperclass English citizens. Swift states his intention of changing the state of Ireland for the better, “But my intention is very far from being confined to provide only for the children of professed beggars...shall take in the whole number of infants...born of parents in effect as little able to support them as those who demand our charity in the streets”(Swift 3). Swift means to not only make things better for those unable to feed their children and themselves, but also make it a profit for the rich reading the piece of writing. He states how his ideas will bring many advantages to the rich as well as the poor suffering in Ireland, as when the population is dealt with, the poor will no longer be begging the rich for food or money to get by. As stated in a later paragraph, “I propose to provide them in such a manner as instead of being a charge upon their parents or the parish, or wanting food and raiment for the rest of their lives, they shall on the contrary contribute to the feeding, and partly to the clothing, of many thousands.”(Swift 4). In this statement, Swift explains how in using the poor, hundreds of thousands of people will benefit, whereas the poor will be used for food and possibly clothes as well. Through speaking like this Swift makes the audience feel as though they’d be helping the greater good, and making everything better for everyone. Swift uses wit and irony to cause the rich reading his piece to feel as though they could help everyone with what is to come, while the deeper meaning of it all is simply saying how the rich are already walking all over the poor, nothing would really change if they were to use them just a little bit more.
Through the mid paragraphs of A Modest Proposal by Jonathan Swift, Swift begins to really scathe the rich with his words. Swift begins to say how he thinks that the poor should just start being used for food in general. There are plenty of people for picking, and a healthy baby would grow plenty and be a feast for one family of poor Irish people, “I have been assured by a very knowing American of my acquaintance in London, that a young healthy child well nursed is at a year old a most delicious, nourishing, and wholesome food, whether stewed, roasted, baked, or boiled; and I make no doubt that it will equally serve in a fricassee or a ragout.”(Swift 9). Upon reading these words, a proper Irishman or Englishman of nobility would sputter. For who in their right mind would suggest such a thing? Surely no self respecting nobleman would tarnish his good name so as to speak of cannibalism so lightly! Swift was using these reactions and turning them against the ones exhibiting them. He mentions it being an American friend of his that first suggested it, and way back when, the people thought the Americans barbarians, as people to do anything they could to get what they needed or wanted to survive. Not to mention speak of revolution being frightening to the nobility; they could lose money or necessities for their rich, fancy lifestyle. “Infant’s flesh will be in season throughout the year, but more plentiful in March, and a little before and after...”(Swift 13), when speaking of such taboo things such as eating a child, the instant reaction is disgust and fear. Yet, when Swift speaks of it, it has an underlying meaning saying how the rich are using the poor for their own benefit anyway. Upon realizing the deeper meaning of A Modest Proposal, the rich reading it should realize the error of their ways, and feel disgust at themselves and their own ways. Swift causes people to notice things are happening, and they aren’t good. These revelations of one’s horrible attitude cause one to sit back and think of what they could do to change to outcome of these events, and help people out a little.
Good representations of satire are not only found in works such as A Modest Proposal, but also in the media of today, mostly on places such as Youtube and Comedy Central. The Daily Show with Jon Stewart is one of the most popular satire news shows on Comedy Central, and hosts many different forms of satire. In the clip, The Best F#@king News Team Ever from The Daily Show, Stewart goes to live coverage of whatever could be happening in front of the CNN headquarters. John Oliver and two to three other people keep freaking out about random, normal things happening on the street that the CNN building is on, and, having nothing real to report on, just talk about how tall the CNN building is and other things. Eventually, each of the “reporters” run up to each other and try to find out about things that are happening on the street, where they all begin to report simple, normal things together. The group used wit and sarcasm to point out simple things and expose how the news just reports on stupid things now. When news teams don’t know about something they need to cover, instead of just waiting until they have information, they just report on everything as if it’s important when it isn’t. The clip not only causes the audience to laugh, but it also makes them think about how the media is getting ridiculous. Most people seem to get their information from the internet now, and news channels are just trying to continue to rake in money, when in doing so, they just make themselves look silly and cause more and more people to stop watching the news because they feel as though the things they report on are unimportant and don’t need their attention.